Some 11,000 public-school supporters have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull criticising his government’s cutting $1.9 billion in funding for public schools in 2018 and 2019.
A colourful six-metre-long banner carrying the names of the thousands of public school supporters was unfurled in front of Parliament House in Canberra as a physical representation of the protest.
Australian Education Union (AEU) Federal President Correna Haythorpe said the strong support for public education funding represented a big wake-up call for the Turnbull government.
Under the Turnbull government’s schools funding arrangement, 70% of private schools currently receive extra funding via special funding deals with Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham.
“However, according to media reports, private schools soon stand to get even more money if the Turnbull Government signs yet another private school special funding deal to alleviate political pressure in the lead up to the next Federal election,” Ms Haythorpe said.
“The Prime Minister’s highest priority should be to restore the $1.9 billion in funding he took from the public school budget for 2018 and 2019, and restore funding fairness to the Australian school system.”
“This call for more funding for public schools is a huge vote of confidence by Australians in their public school system,” Ms Haythorpe said.
While more than 2000 private schools have already been given special funding deals by the Turnbull government, only 13% of public schools will receive enough funding to reach the minimum Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) by 2023.
“All we have heard lately from the Turnbull government is how hard it is working to hand over billions of additional dollars to private schools in special funding deals,” Ms Haythorpe said.
“What about the 2.5 million students who attend public schools? They have been forgotten by the Turnbull government. Our public school students deserve better.”
“This letter has been signed by nearly 11,000 people who are concerned about what effects Mr Turnbull’s public education funding cuts will have for their children’s education,” Ms Haythorpe said.
“Our public school system welcomes each and every child that arrives at the front gate. Public schools are our universal education choice, a path to success for all,” Ms Haythorpe said.
The open letter called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to provide funding for schools based on need:
“We, the undersigned, are writing to express our serious concern about the impact of funding cuts to public schools on children and the wider community. We call on you to immediately reverse the public school funding cuts and not enter into another private school special deal.
We are particularly concerned to learn through the media that your Government is considering a special funding deal with the private school sector while the challenges facing the public sector remain unaddressed. Public schools bore the brunt of 86% of your Government’s cuts to schools with $1.9 billion denied to public schools in 2018 and 2019.
Your Government’s 2017 education reforms will result in just 13% of public schools reaching the Schooling Resource Standard by 2023 while 65% of private schools will be ABOVE that standard. That situation is completely unacceptable and does not meet our expectation of how our schools should be funded.
School funding should be based on need; the funding priority should be ensuring that every school reaches 100% of the Schooling Resource Standard by 2023.
Investing in our public schools is an investment in our future and is the only way to ensure every child across this country can get the high quality education they deserve.”
Ms Haythorpe called on the Turnbull government to strike agreements with the states and territories to ensure that all public schools receive 100% of their SRS by 2023, and to ensure that the 20% cap on the Commonwealth’s share is removed.
“Needs-based school funding is about providing additional resources where they are needed most, not propping up private schools which are already significantly advantaged by the Turnbull government’s funding arrangements,” Ms Haythorpe said.
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